The Battleship North Carolina was a major player in the Pacific War theatre during WWII. Even though the death toll during her active years was quite low, ghosts are said to be quite active aboard the ship. So active that paranormal investigators, including TAPS, have been investigating it for years.
This naval relic is allegedly one of the most haunted places in North Carolina, and the best part about it? You can find out for yourself. Pack your bags, grab your sea legs—we’re headed to Wilmington, North Carolina.
- Listen to the episode
- History of the Battleship North Carolina
- Ghosts on the Battleship North Carolina
- Visiting Battleship North Carolina
- Looking for more sea-worthy ghost stories? Check these out:
Listen to the episode
History of the Battleship North Carolina
Picture this: the year is 1937. It is a year of advancements, and a year of disasters. Toyota has just opened its first location in Japan, and the Golden Gate bridge is now fit and ready for public visitors. But amidst all of this excitement, the Hindenburg is going up in flames and Amelia Erhardt has vanished with no explanation. World War II is still two years away, but Japan and China are embroiled in the Second Sino-Japanese War, which would eventually be part of the greater Second World War theatre.
Far away from the battlegrounds of Shanghai and Nanjing, the keel for Battleship North Carolina has just been laid—for those of us not familiar with shipbuilding techniques, these are the bare bones of the ship. And as the final pieces are being set, no one could imagine that in a mere four years this soon-to-be built ship will be pulled into war and end up as a major play in the Pacific Theatre.
But we’re not there quite yet.
What’s in a ship’s name?
Our Battleship North Carolina was not the first ship to be called The North Carolina. In fact, it wasn’t even the second or the third.
The first was launched in 1820 from Philadelphia. It made two main voyages before becoming a trainingship, then was used for scrap in 1867. The second was commissioned in 1908, but was renamed The Charlotte in 1920 so the North Carolina name could be used by another ship commissioned that same year. But that ship never came to fruition—but the Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament, an accord signed by by the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and France, stopped its construction. The treaty dictated that each country was only allowed so many naval ships, so the third North Carolina was scrapped after only two years.
And, in case you’re curious, the most recent ship to bear the name was built in 2008 and is still in active service.
Our North Carolina was commissioned in 1941, which basically means they had a big birthday celebration for her when the finished the boat—this is also a great time for the Navy to bring in a bunch of media to take photos and brag about how hot the ship is. Picture an old cartoon, this is the one where you’d see a guy in a top hat hit a bottle of champagne against the bow, and then lots of streamers go everywhere.
She spent her first years at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn. This was before her commissioning, and the Navy was super stoked to have her come on board (pun intended) because, due to the Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament, they hadn’t had a new battleship in 16 years.
The North Carolina in action during WWII
The North Carolina was the first of 10 new high-speed battleships that would eventually be used during WWII. It was also considered the world’s greatest sea weapon. Surprisingly enough, this title did not jinx it.
Over the course of WWII she would be involved in every major Pacific battle. It received 15 battle starts, making it the most decorated ship in WWII. And over the entirety of her time on the ocean, she would have a total of 2,195 navy officers stationed on her.
Battle of Eastern Solomons
One of the first events that took place for the USS North Carolina was the Battle of Eastern Solomons—a two day battle from August 24th to 25th, 1942. The USS Enterprise (CV6), a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier, was under attack and struggling due to three hits by Japanese bombs which had done a considerable amount of damage.
The North Carolina swooped in, taking down several of the attacking Japanese airplanes. Because of its swift reaction and success, the North Carolina gained the reputation of being a protector of aircraft carries—a theme that would continue throughout the war.
Battle of Okinawa
The USS North Carolina was also involved in the Battle of Okinawa, codename “Operation Iceberg” which took place from April to June of 1945. This was the the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific Theater of World War II. On May 29, it had been discovered that Shuri Castle, a major command centre for Japanese ground forces had been shelled three days earlier by the battleship USS Mississippi. The eventual raid of the castle helped the USA gain intelligence on the Japanese army.
Troubles during WWII
While the North Carolina participated in some pivotal battles and helped secure allied victories in the Pacific front, there are a few bumps along the way.
Sinking the WASP
On September 15, 1943, the aircraft carriers, USS Wasp and USS Hornet, alongside the battleship North Carolina, and ten other warships, were escorting reinforcements to Guadalcanal. A Japanese submarine caught the Wasp in their crosshairs, aiming several torpedoes in her direction. Three struck, and the Wasp would be under by nightfall. A single stray torpedo missed and travelled the extra distance, striking the North Carolina.
Water quickly rushed into the ship, and to keep her afloat, the crew had to let enough water into the undamaged compartments of the ship’s base to keep it balanced. The concern was, if it listed too much to either side, she could sink. They managed to keep her afloat long enough to return to Pearl Harbor where she spent a few months in repair. Aboard the North Carolina, five crew members were killed, and another 23 injured.
The kamikaze pilot
During the second incident, an allied ship was attempting to take down a kamikaze flier, as the plane was too close for comfort to the other ships in the fleet.
At approximately 1 pm, the allied ship took a shot at the plane but missed, instead hitting the North Carolina. Three crew were killed and another 44 injured. She, again, had to tap out for a few repairs.
Then, on December 18, 1944, she saw some bad luck when they travelled into the path of Typhoon Cobra. The men were fueling up their destroyers as the storm hit, they tried to finish but had to rush to safety as 70-foot waves were crashing onto the ship’s deck.
At one point the USS North Carolina actually made a sideroll. The ship was at a reported 30-degree angle, almost parallel to the water. The crew whole-heartedly believed had they rolled even a little bit more, the ship would have sunk.
Typhoon Cobra took out 800 crew members total from the fleet that was travelling, together, though it’s unclear how many of those were on the North Carolina.
An eye witness under deck during the storm did report seeing crew members running from the bathrooms still covered in soap, however there were no explicit reports of deaths during the storm.
After the war
When WWII came to an end and both atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, the North Carolina was sitting off the coast of Tokyo.
The crew was not fully aware of what happened, but had heard the war was over. Crew even reported that the captain had brought his own small boat along so that when the war was over he could take it sailing in Tokyo Bay, which he apparently did.
During WWII, the North Carolina was part of nine shore bombardments, destroyed more than 24 enemy aircrafts, and traveled 300,000 miles. All this to the dismay of Japanese media which reported no less than six times that they had sunk her.
She returned to the US and was decommissioned on June 27, 1947. For 14 years, the battleship North Carolina sat collecting rust until it was earmarked for scrap. But when word got out on her fate, the Save Our Ship campaign was started by the Citizens of North Carolina with the goal to have her moved to Wilmington.
They were successful in her efforts, and the ship arrived in Wilmington on October 2, 1961, where she’s been a state memorial for the war and those who were lost ever since.
Ghosts on the Battleship North Carolina
The Battleship North Carolina is reported to be one of the most haunted places in North Carolina. It was featured in the second season of Ghost Hunters, and more recently, was on Ghost Hunts USA in 2019.
During the show Ghost Hunters the crew had “feelings” of things brushing past them, temperature dropping and raising suddenly, and heard loud banging nearby. But in good fun, the hosts started to joke that it was likely rats. At one point, the hosts ended up trying to chase down a shadow which they saw out of the corner of their eyes. But were unable to find said shadow, and the room which they followed it to had no other exits that they could see.
All of that might seem a little stereotypical when it comes to TV ghost unts, but what the Ghost Hunters showed was only a small part of what reports say about the battleship North Carolina ghosts.
The washroom ghost
Apparently, there is a ghost lurking in the washroom.
Remember how earlier we talked about crewmembers taking showers during Typhoon Cobra? Well apparently this sailor didn’t make it out of the storm (or the bathroom) alive.
Despite the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any written records of anyone dying while on the toilet (or in the general bathroom vicinity), the stories continue.
Visitors report that the bathroom gives off a creepy feeling, and often has cold spots. Though, it’s important to point out that the ship is made of steel, which can both hold onto heat and cold—so it’s probably that the ship’s construction is guilty of the spookiness aboard. Or, at least in the bathroom.
The blonde-haired ghost
Another often-mentioned ghosts hanging aboard the battleship North Carolina is the blonde-haired ghost.
He’s a full-body apparition that is most often seen walking down corridors. Watch out if you come across him, because he’s got a reputation for enjoying jump scares. But you’ll be happy to know, he doesn’t appear to be violent. He just likes to interact with visitors aboard the ship.
This might also be the same ghost that the night watchman, Danny Bradshaw, regularly sees. Danny reports seeing a man, often in doorways or windows, watching him. This sometimes happens after his TV stops working. But, it should be noted that Danny describes his apparition to have what looks like white flames for hair.
During his interview on Ghost Hunters, Danny talked about a time when a friend pulled up to visit him at the Battleship North Carolina. When that friend got there she believed Danny was looking out a porthole watching her. But when she told Danny about it, he let her know he had already left that particular room and had locked it at the time she would have seen the person.
This friend is not the only one to see someone looking out the portholes, as a hand is often seen moving the curtain away from the small window for a few seconds before moving it back. Faces often are also seen looking out at the tourists from the portholes.
Crew at work
It also seems like there might be a few crewmembers aboard the ship, still performing their duties.
When people walk around, doors that were locked will be open the next time the they walk by. Whistling is often heard echoing through the halls. And during one ghost hunt, an EVP was recorded where the ghost was asked who the president was. In response, the EVP said Roosevelt.
Visiting Battleship North Carolina
Visitors are welcome to stop by Battleship North Carolina. It’s sitting at in a bay on the Cape Fear River, located at 1 Battleship Rd NE. It holds a 4.8 out of 5 for reviews on Google, but its Tripadvisor review is slightly lower at 4.5.
Tours through Battleship North Carolina are self-guided (though you can check their event calendar to see if anything’s going on). They say it takes about two hours to fully experience, so we should point out that the ship is neither heated or air-conditioned—so choose your visiting days wisely.
Tickets are $14 for adult tickets, but you can get special prices for seniors, military personnel, and children. It’s open every day of the year, with the exception of holidays and other special circumstances. But, note that it’s COVID so be safe if you go and double-check if they’re open. Tickets are sold on board between 8 am and 4 pm, and the ship closes at 5 pm.
If you go, let us know how it is!
Looking for more sea-worthy ghost stories? Check these out:
- Explore one of the most famous haunted ships in America, the RMS Queen Mary.
- Learn about the most infamous pirate queens to lurk on the seven seas.
- Hang out with our good friend Lockey and a few other water-dwelling monsters.
- Visit the Oregon coast for a spooky lighthouse tale.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with this information themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Ghost Hunters Season 2 Episode 4 Mordecai House & U.S.S. North Carolina, Paranormal UK.
- Cobra and the Showboat: The Typhoon of 1944, WNCT.
- The USS North Carolina Gives New Meaning to the Phrase Ghost Ship, Ghost Hunts USA.
- Is the USS North Carolina Battleship haunted?, WRAL.com.
- Battleship North Carolina, Wilmington, Haunted Rooms.
- Professional ghost hunters to investigate haunting of USS North Carolina battleship, Charlotte Observer.
- USS North Carolina (BB-55), 1941-1961, Naval History and Heritage Command.
- Battleship North Carolina, BattleshipNC.com
The Lady Dicks was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion and Tae Haahr. “Ghost of the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, NC” was written by Kimberley Miller, produced by Tae Haahr, and edited by Rory Joy. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
Written by Kimberley Miller